Naked ambition 

Painter David Langevin gambles with the Old Masters

Who: David Langevin, The Renaissance of Figures

Where: adele-campbell Fine Art & Design Gallery

When: Exhibit opening and artist reception Sunday, Aug. 31

Ten years ago, artist David Langevin left behind the miserable winters of Ottawa and Montreal and headed for the hot, dry hills of Kamloops. Aside from a better climate, the classically trained painter gained a new appreciation for landscapes, and found an audience who have responded enthusiastically to his vision of the natural world. His paintings now grace the walls of galleries across the country, including Whistler art house the adele-campbell Fine Art & Design gallery, where his works have been featured for the past eight years.

But fans of the artist are in for a big surprise when adele-campbell unveils its upcoming Langevin exhibit. Instead of rugged terrain or proud treescapes, prepare for an intimate, striking collection of human nudes evoked in the rich oils and heady style of the Renaissance, a style he boldly alludes to in the exhibit’s title: The Renaissance of Figures.

It’s a departure. A radical one at that. And the artist will be the first one to admit it.

"It’s a gamble, and I love that stuff," says Langevin over the phone from his Kamloops home. "It’s a brand new body of work, a whole new series of paintings. I’m putting out all this new stuff and I’m going to see what the reaction is."

While the series may seem a departure for Langevin landscape lovers, it’s a perfect fit for an artist who trained in the styles of the Renaissance masters.

"My biggest influences are painters who have been dead for hundreds of years," says Langevin. "I really got turned on to the so-called Old Masters when I was studying, guys like da Vinci, Caravaggio and Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens."

Langevin says his style influences have marked his landscape portfolio.

"One of the things, I think, that distinguishes my landscape paintings, and why people think they’re so unusual, is because I learned to paint by studying the techniques of these old Renaissance painters. I learned to paint in oils," he explains. "Then when I switched to doing landscapes when I moved out west, because the landscape painting out here is so fun," he adds, "I used Renaissance painting techniques to do landscapes. So they look kind of, weird, I guess, compared to your typical landscape painter that paints more like the Group of Seven or an Impressionist."

The subject matter for which he’s known, and the subject matter he will be unveiling at the adele-campbell may seem worlds apart. But Langevin says he feels a connection between the rugged stoicism of the outdoors and the soft, flowing curves of the intimate female form.

"The thing that ties them together for me is that I paint what inspires me. So it can be mountains or trees or people, but to me, it’s still just colours, and light, and shadows, and contours, and lines. It’s the same; it’s just that the subject changes. So for me, they’re not that different."

Adele-campbell’s showing of Renaissance of Figures will be the collection’s official debut. According to Langevin, whose work hangs in galleries across the country, there is no place better suited for such an unveiling than Whistler. He credits the international flavour of the tourist crowd for fostering an atmosphere of open-mindedness, contrasting it with a market such as Edmonton, which he characterizes as more homogeneous and therefore, more conservative.

"People in Whistler are crazy," says Langevin, laughing. "They’re just wonderful. They’re open to anything."

The gallery will host an opening night reception for the new exhibit this Sunday, Aug. 31 between 5 and 9 p.m. with Langevin in attendance. Call 604-938-0887, or log on to www.adele-campbell.com for more information.

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